After losing out in the first round of the minor-pro, ECHL playoffs with the Orlando Solar Bears last season, Brett Findlay wasn’t sure what the future had in store for him.
The Echo Bay, Ontario product had spent the first 15 games of the 2014-2015 season with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, putting up one goal and three assists, before spending the rest of the campaign with the Solar Bears.
He thrived in the top-line, forward role he was given in the ECHL and clicked at a near point-per-game pace as he put up 41 points in 45 games in Orlando. Still, Findlay spent a large portion of the off-season waiting for a new contract.
“I think it was around early July when my agent phoned me and said that the Marlies were interested in re-signing me for another season,” said Findlay, who prior to turning pro, skated in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League with the Blind River Beavers and as an undrafted walk-on in the Ontario Hockey League with the Soo Greyhounds and Peterborough Petes.
“So, that was nice to kind of get it over with and really try and focus on myself and the off-season training,” he recalled.
Still, Findlay began the 2015-2016 season with the Solar Bears in the ECHL but instead of hanging his head, he went back to Orlando with a positive attitude and put up 16 points in the first 15 games.
That production resulted in a late-November call up to the Marlies and Findlay has stuck with the Toronto AHLers ever since.
Findlay played with Byron Froese, now in the National Hockey League with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Orlando and said that gives players like himself hope that they can overcome the odds as well.
“Obviously playing with Byron and seeing the path that he has taken it’s exciting for him and for other players like myself who have maybe taken a bit of a different route,” said the 23-year-old Findlay. “But it just goes to show you that if you believe in yourself and work every day that anything is possible.”
Findlay credits his parents for the constant support they have given him throughout the ups and downs of his career.
For instance, when he was cut from the Soo North Stars in midget he began to doubt himself but his parents were there to encourage him. When he broke his leg in an ATV accident, his mother spent countless hours working with him on his skating.
To be sure, the support Findlay has received from his family has helped him come this close to his life-long dream of playing in the NHL.
The Marlies forward also gives credit to ex-Greyhound general manager and current Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas for giving him a chance to show what he can do. Findlay noted that Dubas has been very honest with him as to what he likes and doesn’t like about his game — and that has helped him focus on what he needs to work on.
Findlay has seemingly been making the best out of any situation thrown at him for his entire career and it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon.
“Every day I come to the rink it’s a new day to work on your skills and become a better player,” Findlay told HockeyNewsNorth.com. “To be on the best team in the entire AHL right now is pretty exciting.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Dylan Fremlin is a first-year journalism student at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario.)
PHOTO: Brett Findlay, in action with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.